Greenwood: Bigger trucks, heavy loads better for roads?

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Chalk this one up to what some see as reality versus perception.

The Michigan Farm Bureau just published a report based on a recent study that shows that bigger trucks carrying heavier loads are better for Michigan roads.

As most of you know, Michigan allows truck loads (gross vehicle weight, or GVW) of up to 164,000 pounds compared with a max of 80,000 for the rest of the U.S. Critics have been howling for years that those kinds of loads are a leading factor in the deterioration of our roads.

However, tests by the state, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Department of Transportation have shown that 164,000 pounds loads spread over 11 axles (14,909 pounds) is less harmful than 80,000 spread over five axle trucks (16,000). And apparently students from the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District agree.

Zeeland Farm Services (a soybean processor) sponsored a study by five high school students to look into the relationship between heavy trucks and the roads they travel. The students relied on mathematics to reach the conclusion that bigger is better not only weightwise, but economically and environmentally.

Their study concluded that dropping the weight limit to 80,000 pounds would require two trucks to carry the load of one resulting in increased fuel costs, increased emissions and increased stress on state roadways, plus a greater risk of car-truck collisions.

The students concluded that all those negatives would result in higher costs being shunted onto the consumer.

According to the secretary of state, as of 2012, there were 79,895 trucks registered by weight in Michigan of which 73,510 were under 80,000 GVW. That means 6,385 trucks (or about 8 percent) are registered to carry between 80,001 and 164,000 pounds.

The total number of trucks registered by the SOS to carry the maximum of 160,001 to 164,000 pounds is 321, or .4 percent of all registered trucks.

Have the lawmakers in Lansing looked at changing the situation?

They took a look at it in 2012 when one lawmaker proposed lowering the 164,000 over-11-axles limit to 80,000 over five axles, but the bill was defeated in the Senate by a 15-22 vote.

Agree or disagree, you can find the student’s report online at

(313) 222-2023

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